Tuesday, May 10, 2016

credit where credit is due

Some of my past posts have been a little bit of a downer and critical of some of my tendencies that I am not so proud of. Things that make me human.
Humans are flawed, we all have things we wish we could do better but I am taking today to stop looking back at the things I have done wrong in my almost seven years as a mother and before I do another thing, I must praise Jesus for seeing me through. Even when I did not seek Him, He was there. In the times when I have reached the ends of myself and when I recall the worst points of motherhood, each time He brought me to repentance and humility and showed me what it truly means to grieve my sin and how only He can fix what I have broken. It is because of Him that my children love me, because I have shown them how unlovable and unloving I am on my own.

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose. - Romans 8:28

Even when my eyes are clouded by frustration, annoyance, selfishness, and despair (all temporary, earthly distractions), Jesus is there, working it all for good and for His glory. And I'm so thankful, because you know what? My kids are pretty great. When I look at a group of kids on the playground or when I peek through the windows at Sunday school or even just as we're shopping at Target, I am (99.9% of the time) so happy that Leila and Cameron are the ones I get to call mine. My children make me laugh and stump me with hard questions every day and they are turning into really neat little people. I am looking forward with so much joy to homeschooling Leila and Cameron because I want to spend time with them, want to see who they are becoming, and want to have not just a front-row seat, as many supportive parents do, but an active role in the next thirteen years of our lives together, and I want them to have an active role in mine. Being a human is hard. We are sinful, selfish, and struggling. I want to figure out how to live this life well and I want to figure it out along side of my three most favorite people in the whole world.

Monday, May 9, 2016

Confession: Mommy School

B is for Bubbles
Leila showing off her bubbles (2013)
I have a confession to make: I've homeschooled before. When our daughter was three, Wes and I decided not to shell out the thousands of dollars for preschool but instead I created "mommy school" and we did homeschool preschool. It helped that my own mother was a preschool teacher before becoming a mommy and she shared with me all kinds of great resources to teach colors and numbers that she had saved. It also helped that preschool is awesome and lesson plans were easy by just going through the alphabet, one letter a week. I found free worksheets online (yay pinterest!) and had Leila practice tracing and writing the upper case and lower case letters and the rest of the time we just did activities that started with the letter of the week: B is for bubbles, C is for Candy Land, G is for (mini-)golf, etc. We had a great time mostly just playing together. However, Mommy school also happened to be during my "angry mama" phase I mentioned, so things weren't always as cute and smiley as they are in the picture and I didn't follow through very well once I ran out of ideas and steam. We still read lots of books together and visited the library weekly, something we continue to do now, but there was also a lot of television time instead of hands-on activities and days we just stayed home instead of pursuing adventure or a new experience because I couldn't handle the thought of dealing with both kids outside of the house. Now, of course, I'm wistful about the easy (curriculum-wise) mommy school days and sorrowful that I was angry so much of the time.
When the time came to enroll Leila in kindergarten, Wes and I briefly considered continuing to homeschool, but at the same time we were looking forward to our first foster placement and the thought of sending at least one kid out of the house for part of the day was very appealing to me. I've said before that Leila loved kindergarten and so I don't regret sending her, and it maybe extended my sanity in the fostering months to have that break. In any event, I have sought forgiveness from God and from my children for my anger and I look ahead with joy and anticipation of the blessings to come. I know homeschooling my now elementary-age children won't be all giggles and games, but I'm confident that my heart is in the right place (thank you Jesus) and I'm eager for the opportunity to do better this time around.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

on schedules and routines

this is a unique position to be in - looking forward to homeschool but currently having my daughter attend public school. I don't know what the statistics are on families who make the decision to homeschool and then immediately pull their kids out of public school, but anecdotally, just in blogs and other stories I have heard, it seems to happen more frequently than making the decision and then finishing out the school year. Although, knowing that Leila will be staying home in the fall, I reluctantly send her off each morning (and Cameron's been begging to stay home from his two-day-a-week preschool ever since we told him he would be homeschooled for kindergarten), I am thankful for this time of preparation.
In addition to continually examining and softening my heart (God has done a miracle in me; my prayer now is that I don't get in His way and squander this incredible blessing), there are lots of external projects and things to consider. Our homeschool room is almost finished. Leila has been enjoying doing her homework there in the afternoons and as you saw, Cameron and I spent time in there on the days he is home. To be honest, it's currently the cleanest, most organized room in my house, so I find myself gravitating to the uncluttered white table and bright sunshiny window when I need to get some work done too, even though I have my own desk under the stairs.
I'm also trying to be mindful of routines and using this time of preparation to create good habits, both for myself (do the dishes immediately after every meal ... ugh), and for my children with chores and also general getting ready tasks that they are capable, at five and almost seven years old, of doing themselves but often get done for them in the morning rush.
Oh, the morning rush. I wonder if knowing that this won't be an issue in six weeks makes it such an issue now. Probably not, I know mornings are hard for most families, but my goodness. Leila and Cameron must be growing because my normally early-risers have been sleeeeeeeping in lately, which is nice for me and my quiet morning time, but not so nice for creating a relaxing and joyful sendoff for the day. Instead of blessing Leila with a kiss and a hug before school, I am barking at her to hurry-up-and-get-your-shoes-on-and-stop-messing-around-with-your-water-bottle-and-no-Cameron-I-can't-get-you-a-drink-of-water-your-sister-is-late-for-school-and-I-already-heard-the-first-bell-ring-hurry-up!! as I practically shove her out the front door. No wonder kids seek refuge with their friends and are adversarial to their parents at such young ages when mornings are so continually fraught with tension.
As I look forward to the fall, I am crafting a routine instead of a schedule. To me, a schedule says we will all wake up at 7am on the dot with breakfast on the table by 7:30 then family devotionals with an eye on the clock to be in the classroom at 8am to spend exactly 45 minutes on each subject, moving seamlessly from math, to writing, to history, or so help me and everyone smiling and compliant and joyful all the live long day.
Instead of rigidity, our routine will be an order of events, but not require us to adhere to specific times. If, like this week, everyone's a little tired, we may not roll out of bed and eat breakfast until 8, and then proceed with our day, and if everyone's up by 630, we'll start early and have time for a picnic or an extra-long hike after lunch. This flexibility allows for us to spend additional time on academic subjects that need more attention or are just really enjoyable! There is also freedom to read a little longer, to take time out for heart-reaching correction instead of demanding a quick behavior change, and to get up and try again when we make mistakes. This allows for grace and is a gift that we can give each other every day. I can't wait!

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Octonauts for Pre-K

pretty much the second we decided to have Cameron be homeschooled for kindergarten, I turned to pinterest to look up fine motor skills activities, math games, and other fun learning activities we can use next year along with reading, reading, and more reading together. In the process, I came across some things that are perfect for his stage and interest level now and since he is still home with me three days a week while his sister is in school, I printed off some activities to help us get into the groove of school at home together. These (free printable!) Octonauts activities from royalbaloo.com have been a huge hit! We love Octonauts in our house, despite my initial reservation that they were too babyish for my kids. Cameron (and even Leila) will watch with great interest and the ocean facts learned on the show have sparked discussions and motivated further fact-finding missions for both my kids.
To start off our Octonauts activities, first, I let him watch an episode of Octonauts while I took my shower, since it didn't happen in the morning rush, and Wes was asleep upstairs, having just come off the night shift. I promised him some one-on-one time after I was cleaned up and he was so excited to sit down with me and do "homework."

Once the show was over and I was halfway put together, we did some pre-writing with dry-erase markers (I put the printed sheet into a sleeve protector). Cameron is most happy with a blank sheet of paper (rather, a whole blank pad!) and a marker and will sit contentedly for hours drawing robots, sea creatures, Star Wars scenes, and people, but I wanted to see how he would follow directions and tracing. Looks like he did pretty well! He even asked to do this again later in the day.
While Cameron was working on tracing, I was folding up a dice featuring the Octonauts characters for our next activity - graphing! At first I said to roll the dice ten times and we'd see who had the most rolls, but Cameron was way into it, so I changed it to, "Let's have a race and see who gets five rolls first!" Cameron responded so positively to the idea of a race, and we played this game over and over again (Shellington won three races in a row, hence the next picture!), and even played it again in the afternoon while we waited for Leila to get home from school. Again, I used a sleeve protector and dry erase marker to be able to play this game multiple times without wasting paper. 
The activity pack features tons of other games and practices, and I didn't print everything off, but there are a few other things I've saved to pull out another day. For now, Cameron is super excited about having mommy be his teacher and asks me, "how many more days until I'm homeschooled? how many more days until kindergarten?" When Wes told him it was close to 100, he was a little discouraged, but we'll keep having fun with these pre-k activities in the meantime and look forward to September together!  
Also, looking at these pictures makes me realize that we really need a curtain or shade in this room that is slowly turning into our homeschool room if we're going to be productive morning workers in a few months! 

Monday, April 18, 2016

next steps

continuing the story from Friday's post:
so after Wes unhesitatingly agreed that Cameron should be homeschooled starting right away in kindergarten, the next step was to enroll him in Leila's new school (I'm not sure what the official homeschooly word for this is, but I call it our umbrella school because we are under their umbrella of legal protection and also their umbrella of support and community). I wasn't sure if it would be possible as the enrollment time had technically ended - I made the phone call to try and add him on the paperwork deadline - but I was met with such enthusiasm and joy from the enrollment coordinator. She was thrilled to welcome our ENTIRE family to the school and mentioned that they had been hoping for this outcome since our initial face-to-face interview back in March. Praise the Lord!

A couple of months ago, some relatives from the midwest come to stay with us. The timing coincided with the decision-making process of our first initial, tentative, toe-dipping into the homeschool world. I voiced my concerns and wishy-washy attitude to this second-or-third cousin and she advised me, ever so wisely and matter-of-factly, to just make a decision one way or the other and see what happens. At the time, we made the decision to go for it with Leila and not with Cameron, but the best choice was made so obvious once we moved forward. I have had repeated confirmations (both internally in my spirit and externally through circumstances and conversations) that this is the right choice for our family and having now acted on the Spirit's leading to bring Cameron home as well, I have such a peace about all this that I didn't know was possible and wouldn't have believed was possible. All that has transpired can only be from the Lord and I am just in awe.

Friday, April 15, 2016

Carole and Cameron

Last Saturday was just the best.
My mom (who just happens to be in town this week!) and I got up early and drove south to see Carole Joy Seid speak! I was so excited!! After reading some of her archived newsletters and hearing her speak on video, I was already pretty confident that I wanted to use her methods (based heavily on the Charlotte Mason model) to homeschool, and hearing her speak in person confirmed it. And I was so thrilled to share the day with my fellow-book-loving mom, who confessed at dinner on the way home from the session that she still thinks I'm a little crazy for choosing bring my kids home and have them with me all the live-long day, but understands much more after listening to Carole Joy Seid's engaging, confident, and thought-provoking points of view about literature-based education. I left the venue feeling encouraged, positive, and excited - bolstered by not only the main speaker, but also by a panel of veteran homeschoolers who have been applying these methods for years and seen amazing results.
I also left with a strong feeling about Cameron. Up until now on this journey to homeschooling, the plan has been to send Cameron to kindergarten at our neighborhood public school while Leila and I work out the kinks in this first year at home together, and then, Lord-willing, depending on how that goes, bring Cameron home the following year.
Since we made the decision, there have been small nudges about having Cameron home for kindergarten: anecdotes from friends about how it's easier to have two at home than one because they can entertain each other; gentle warnings from our school about not keeping the family together; and, as I go about finding books and doing some early planning, being wistful about Cameron missing out on the fun Leila and I are going to have at home! But ultimately, on this issue, I chose to defer to my husband's opinion that it would be better for everyone to have Cameron at school and Leila at home this year (and based on previous experiences, most notably during our time of fostering, I have come to trust my husband's assessment, especially when it comes to knowing my limits, which he is more lovingly realistic about than I am in my egoism and pridefulness), though we have agreed that if things don't go well in kindergarten, we are open to bringing him home at Christmas break.
But as Carole Joy Sied began her presentation, Cameron's name kept popping up into my head as she spoke about: specific challenges second-born boys have in traditional school environments; the extreme strengths and extreme weaknesses of young children (Wes and I also make the comment that Cameron seems "manic" with his rapid changes from one emotion to the next);  kinesthetic learners; and immature nervous systems and the "acting out" that can actually indicate a breakdown, not just a naughty kid.
At the first break I texted Wes, "I think I want Cameron at home with me," followed by the big-eyed emoticon that I call the "oh crap" face (it's the same emoticon I probably would have used to accompany the news of my second pregnancy that was totally unplanned and supposedly prevented and resulted in the arrival of our exuberant son, if I was to share that kind of news via text).
During lunch I confessed to Mom: it is hard for me to discern between my own feelings and the Holy Spirit leading. Despite everything I had just heard that morning, should we continue to follow through on our current trajectory of sending Cameron to public school (his enrollment papers have already been turned in!) and then wait to see how the first semester goes and hope for the best? Or do I trust that the still, small voice that all morning was bringing Cameron to the forefront of my mind is the Spirit, and that we should just take the plunge with both kids at the same time.
We returned for the afternoon session and I was again overwhelmed with thoughts of Cameron as we heard research and anecdotes about power of being in nature: the ability to manage stress improves with the removal of electronics which equals less meltdowns in kids; being in nature can improve cognitive function, immune functions, and has been shown to reduce concentrations of adrenaline and cortisol for up to a week. I've already seen first-hand the differences in attitude and cheerfulness that my son has after a hike, despite being dog-dead tired, compared to the same level of tiredness after doing pretty much anything else, and this session was more than convincing and encouraging to me.
As the afternoon went on, Mom and I frequently looked toward each other and mouthed "Cameron" as Carole Joy Seid and the speakers panel continued to share. And we headed north for dinner and home with some impending changes to what I had thought would happen (this seems to be a theme for me lately!). We got home late, shared some cupcakes we'd picked up on the way with Dad and Wes and shared a few brief stories from the day, but it wasn't until Mom and Dad had left, teeth were brushed, and just before lights out that I said to Wes, in person this time, "I think I want to have Cameron at home and not go to kindergarten." And he said, without pause, "ok."

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Spring Break

this past week was Spring Break and our family headed up the coast to the Pismo Beach area to "camp" in a trailer and enjoy the beauty of God's creation in this part of our state where we have never really had the opportunity to visit. I'm wishing now that I took more pictures and though I did take a couple, we were mostly too busy enjoying ourselves:
exploring the Oceano Sand Dunes
we did it all: hiking, beach combing, geocaching, and tide pooling
at Montana de Oro State Park
The weather was less than ideal most of the week (though the day we spent hiking at Montana de Oro was perfect for those few hours), and we spent a lot more time than we'd anticipated hanging out in our rented trailer, playing games and reading. The kids had a little room to themselves at one end of the trailer with bunkbeds and a tiny table and bench seats where they were happy to draw and read and make up silly games with their stuffed animals together while Wes and I got a lot of reading done! While I love the exploring-a-new-area part of vacation, I'm really just super happy with a new book and some quiet hours to read in a space that isn't my never-ending-chore-filled house. Wes powered through his first-ever reading of To Kill A Mockingbird and loved it (I love that
book cover image from
he loved it!) while I was scouring the pages of my own copy of Educating the WholeHearted Child. After skimming my borrowed copy (thanks Lynz!) last week, I knew I would like the Clarkson's framework for homeschool, but once I had the chance to really get into the nitty gritty, I am even more confident and excited! The concept of WholeHearted means not just book learning, but also building family relationships and seeking Christ throughout the years spent together at home. I am glad we have these months to prepare our house and our hearts to home educate and we aren't jumping frantically into this transition because there are several areas of foundation that will be nice to have in place before "teacher" is officially added to the list of ways my children know me. One area in particular that will take some getting used to on my part is relating to my children in sympathy instead of strictness. I am not now, nor have I never been a super compassionate person and even in my current, thank you Jesus, not-so-angry state of mind, I am probably still shorter with my kids than they would prefer from their mama. I am thankful for the conviction I felt when reading this chapter and my prayer is that God will continue to soften my heart toward Leila and Cameron, to remind me to stop what I am doing and meet them where they are, and humble my spirit to respond to their many demands and interruptions, and how to ask engaging (not accusing) questions that will, in love, draw us closer together and closer to Him. 

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Setting the Stage

book image from
desperate mom.com
During my angry mama phase, I picked up a book at our local Family Christian bookstore called Desperate: Hope For the Mom Who Needs to Breathe by Sarah Mae and Sally Clarkson. I had never heard of either of these women before and wasn't even looking for anything in particular that day (my husband likes to go when the CDs are on sale for $5!), but the title and the image on the cover of the book leaped off the shelf and into my heart. I bought the book, took it home, read it, underlined it, copied whole paragraphs into my journal, and then went online to find out more about these wise women who wrote such inspiring words. I discovered that the more mature co-author, Sally Clarkson, hosted several conferences around the country called the Mom Heart Conference and that in just a few months, she would be bringing this conference to a town less than 100 miles away from where I live, just down the road from my childhood home where my parents still lived in a large, now-empty house. I immediately emailed all my close mom friends, hoping just one of them would want to accompany me for the weekend, bribing them with free lodging at my parents' house.
SIX friends responded to that email and registered for the conference with me, based, probably, mostly, on wanting a night away, but also on the promise that the speakers would reach to a mother's heart and all of us, with 17 kids between us at the time (now there are 21!) were feeling the need to be encouraged by someone who had raised children and raised them well.
Momference 2014! I am so thankful for these amazing, supportive,
hilarious, honest women I am undeservedly blessed to call my friends.
I had no idea before attending Mom Heart Conference that year that Sally Clarkson has written multiple well-received books on mothering, has homeschooled all four of her now-adult children, and is an impassioned advocate of home education.  And while I enjoyed the conference and the company of my six girlfriends without the usual interruptions that come with small children, homeschooling was not even a blip on my radar at the time. I did purchase two books that weekend from the Clarkson family, one, a family devotional, and the other, a book about books written by Sally's eldest daughter Sarah called Read for the Heart. I determined that using these two books would be a good way for me to still nurture and reach my kids while the majority of their wake time in years to come was spent at school.
Flash forward two years and while I referenced the book list book a couple of times prior to heading off to the library, we still mostly come home with the current favorite books of the moment, regardless of content (mostly, I do have some standards!) and the devotional sat on the shelf as the morning rush and the afternoon homework grind and early bedtimes have taken away most of our non-school daytime hours.
Imagine my surprise that at the same time as I started seriously thinking about home education that I would be totally fed up with my disorderly house and as a result had picked up a book by Sally Clarkson about making a life-giving home (the only other book of Sally Clarkson's I have ever read besides Desperate).
Now that the homeschool train is fully in motion for our family, I've pulled that family devotional down from the shelf and have used it to start outlining Bible lessons to start each school day. Sarah's book about books is sitting (in my still-a-work-in-progress homeschool room) right next to Honey for a Child's Heart and The Read-Aloud Handbook. And while I wait for my copy of Educating the Whole-Hearted Child to be delivered next week, I've had to seriously hold back from marking up a borrowed copy of the same title as I read with excitement and encouragement about how Sally and her husband Clay raised their four children to be successful, Godly adults.

Yesterday I wrote about seeing the big picture and remembering this sequence of events today is further confirmation that while we may make plans, ultimately, it is the LORD who determines our steps. What a blessing and a relief it is for me to trust in Him!

Monday, March 28, 2016

Seeing the Bigger Picture

our temporary family of six
(blurry for protection of our foster children)
I used to think that I had to do something huge for God. That in order to earn His Love, I had to perform some heroic act of service and prove myself worthy. Due in part to this wrong thinking, our family welcomed two foster children to our home a few years ago. This was during my "angry mama" phase (see my testimony in this earlier post) and I was barely hanging onto my sanity with my own biological children and had no business bringing two already hurting children into the mix. Needless to say it didn't end well when I reached the end of my rope (not the end of God, notice, but the end of ME) after three months and we disrupted our placements. By the grace of God, the siblings are together now in an extremely loving home, and I have peace in knowing that this particular home was not available at the time we received the call so our months with them were not wasted, because they were in a safe place with us. But when I think of the times I was short instead of comforting with my words, rushed instead of generous with my time, and annoyed instead of welcoming with my arms, I know that I failed.
I was trying to earn Love. The Love that I already had, but I couldn't see it to share it with the four children in front of me.
But we aren't all called to be Jonah saving entire cities; sometimes the best thing we can do is just take one small step at a time in the right direction and trust in the One who sees the bigger picture. When we were fostering, I lacked that trust. All I could see was the seemingly insurmountable challenges in front of me and I wanted out. What stands out to me when I think about that time is my selfishness, both the lack of heart preparation before and during the placement and the relief I felt when my husband and I decided to make the call to end it. But I also know that I did not count the cost of bringing two hurting children into our home. I did not consider my sinful heart of stone and I did not consider the two God-given children I was already responsible for. (I cringe now when I think of how flippant I was in my attitude, "oh, they'll get used to it. Sure, our early-riser, sensitive-to-loud-noises son can share a room with an infant." Again, Leila and Cameron: please forgive me!!)
As we make preparations to homeschool, I am focusing on one step at a time. I don't know if we will homeschool all the way through graduation. I don't know how the next school year will go (heck, I don't even know how the rest of this day will go). But I do know that my heart is softer. I know that my conviction about the idol of "me time" is truly from the LORD and not a selfish attempt to appear more holy in doing some big thing. I know that I can not and do not need to earn God's Love. That it is freely given. I know that while we are imperfect, we strive toward a perfect God who can see the whole of life. (He can even see if we will ever foster again.) I don't know what lies ahead, but the difference now is that my trust lies with the One who does know and that is enough.

Friday, March 25, 2016

Messy = Happy

there is a decal that is displayed above the window that faces my kitchen sink:

getting ready to make Christmas cookies (2013)
My husband thinks I picked this saying because I hate to do the dishes and often put them off as long as possible. While it is true that there are often dirty dishes in our sink, they are not a cause for happiness and the real reason I hung this decal when my babies were still babies was the dream I had of making messes with them when they got older as I passed along my love for all creative things in the kitchen. And while I have had a little sous chef from time to time, most of the work I do in the kitchen is solitary due to our current schedule. I love the process of menu planning, figuring out how to make the most out of each ingredient I buy at the farmer's market on Saturday and how to balance good, made-mostly-from-scratch meals to fuel our bodies and can't wait to pass along this knowledge to Leila and Cameron. It is well-documented that children who are involved in the the menu planning and choosing of healthy foods are more likely to eat them and I'm looking forward to putting this into practice with the help of my little students in the very near future.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Friends and Methods

I feel a little silly writing a homeschool blog when I have yet to teach a single lesson or even order any curriculum. Sort of like a first-time mom who exclaims at her baby shower how much use she will get out of the wipe warmer or how she read that bamboo swaddling blankets will assure that everyone in the household sleeps eight hours a night right off the bat.
But just like I have friends who went before me into labor and motherhood who gave advice and shared what worked for them, I am blessed to also have wonderful friends who I initially thought were crazy, but now look to for guidance as I make plans for my first homeschool year.
Each of my friends adheres to a different schooling method and has a different family situation, and by talking to them I've learned that there are a million different ways homeschool can look.
One friend takes her kids to a Classical Connections group each week and uses that as the spine for her teaching at home. One friend orders most of her curriculum for the year already planned out. One friend chooses her own curriculum and goes with the flow of the week, or the day, or the hour! One friend is at home three days a week and works two days. One friend's husband is home on Mondays and they plan family hikes and adventures out of the home together. One friend is part of a school where her kids can go one day a week to interact with classmates and learn from an adult other than mom. One friend enjoys reading aloud to her children for much of the day. One friend is teaching her children about the value of home and emphasizes family responsibilities along side of academic lessons. One friend is part of a private school which offers park days, spelling bees, artists fairs, and poetry recitals as opportunities for schooled-at-home families to come together.

All of my friends seem overwhelmed at times, and all my friends speak with joy and love when they share with me their homeschooling experiences! I have learned so much from them already, and I am so grateful for their openness and encouragement as our family undertakes this journey!

Based on talking with and observing what works for my friends, and doing some research online (this blog post at Ed Snapshots was super helpful for me to identify and define some of the phrases and names I've heard tossed around in the homeschool community), as I look forward to planning next year, I'd say we are leaning towards a Charlotte Mason educational style, as interpreted by Carole Joy Seid. For us, this means that we will lean heavily on literature and books to carry us through our day which I'm hoping will be a good fit for our already book-loving family. We are fortunate to live within walking (or usually biking!) distance to our amazing public library and visit weekly. Books are received as welcome gifts every Christmas, birthday, and sometimes in between just for fun, and bedtime stories are a highly anticipated nightly event at our house.
But before I can officially call myself a Charlotte Mason homeschool mom, I need to do some more reading and research on her methods, but based on the list linked to above, that is the "box" that we are checking for now. A friend shared with me a video from Carole Joy Seid who speaks so strongly about a literature-based education and set me on the path towards a Charlotte Mason style. Listening to her speak gives me confidence that we can be successful in this homeschool adventure based on the habits and values we already have in our family.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

How We Got Here

if you would have told me six months ago that I would be willingly and cheerfully planning to homeschool my children the following fall, I would have laughed in your face. Fall of 2016 is the time I have been looking forward to since my son was born; the time when both of my bright, expressive, rambunctious, high-energy children would be in school full-time. After six plus years of having at least one (and for a bit, four, but that's a story for another time) little person home with me all day, it would finally be ME TIME. And haven't I earned it? A few months ago, I would have said not just yes, but hell yes! as I reviewed the lists of books I hope to read in my lifetime, pulled out projects that have been pushed to the side, planned day dates with my husband for restaurants we've been wanting to try, and surveyed the garden and garage that could use some serious attention, all in anticipation of six hours a day (that's thirty hours a week!) all to myself.

"In his heart, a man plans his course, but the LORD determines his steps." Proverbs 16:9

After a joyful, enriching kindergarten year at our neighborhood public school, my daughter started having some trouble in first grade. She was showing poor judgement and getting into trouble in the classroom. After the first semester parent-teacher conference and progress report, we realized that she was not being challenged and was acting out partially due to boredom. At the time, my husband and I joked that she should be homeschooled but didn't seriously consider it because after all, ME TIME was in sight and with our son in pre-K two mornings a week, I was already getting a little taste of next year's quiet bliss.
What ultimately changed our thinking from joking about homeschooling to actively pursuing it, was a matter of the LORD changing my heart.
A few weeks ago, I shared the story of my changed heart at my church's annual Ladies Night Out event. This is part of that testimony:
Many of you are familiar with the song “Ten Thousand Reasons” that we often sing on Sunday mornings. For years, I couldn't make it past the first verse (the one that ends, "whatever may pass and whatever lies before me / let me be singing when the evening comes") without sobbing and if by some miracle I made it past the first verse with my emotions under control, then the opening line of next verse ("You're rich in love and slow to anger") would be my undoing, and I would beg God though my tears to make these words be true of me, because I was an angry mama - fully wrapped up in the circumstances of my small children and my husband's unconventional work schedule and the pressures I felt to be "good enough." I rarely made it to evening/bedtime with a song in my heart; to be honest it was more often a scowl.
Then a few months ago, as the band played the opening chords to this song, I sort of thought to myself, "oh great, here we go again," and tried to remember if I had any tissues packed in my purse, but as we started singing, instead of despair, my heart filled with joy. 
Now, my circumstances haven't changed - my kids are still loud and crazy, my husband still works weird hours, and I am still very often overwhelmed by my role as a mother and homemaker - but as the song played, I realized that my heart has been changed from seeing my children and responsibilities as a burden to responding to these circumstances with joy, and for that I can take no credit, but give all the glory to God. 
The change I realized that Sunday in church was the change that was necessary in my heart to even begin to consider homeschooling. Over the next few weeks, through various sources in my early-morning Bible study, God repeatedly lead me to consider the ideal that I was holding on to for how my life would look with both kids in school during the day, and the idol I was creating out of having time to myself.
After that, I started picking the brains of some of my good friends who homeschool their children and tried to imagine what it would be like for our family to adopt this lifestyle. The more I learned about it, the more excited I got. Our daughter continued to go back and forth between good days and bad days at school and my husband and I became more and more convinced that this was the right thing to do. And now I'm counting down the days, not until the first day of the 2016-17 school year so I can breathe, but for the end of this current school year so I can bring my children home, enjoy the summer with them and together navigate this new path God has set before us.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

an open apology letter to my children

Grandma loves to watch videos Grandpa took of our family when Uncle Luke and I were kids. Grandma has shown some of them to you, do you remember seeing on the TV when Mommy was little? 
Well, one time when I was a bigger girl, our family was sitting around watching a video that was mostly of me, because I kept dancing in front of the camera to take away the view of Uncle Luke, and I asked Grandma, "why didn't you slap me more often? I was so obnoxious!"
Grandpa about fell out of his chair laughing and spoke up, "because your mom wouldn't let me!" Despite the LOOK Grandma gave to Grandpa, we all had a good laugh and kept on watching the Katie show, trying to sneak glimpses of Luke between my dance moves.
When Mommy went to high school, I took a health class and we watched a movie called the Miracle of Birth which showed how babies are made and born. During the birthing scene, the teacher repeatedly rewound and fast forwarded the tape so that the on-screen doctor appeared to push the baby in and pull it back out of the mother over and over. It was awful! After class that day, I declared I would never give birth (traumatized by the health class video!) and never have kids (remembering the home movies Grandma showed me, I just knew that any child of mine would also have my boundless, annoying energy!) and I stuck by that statement even as I got older. 
The summer I was eighteen, the parents of a family I had consistently babysat for since I was eleven decided to go away to Paris for two weeks and asked if I would stay with their three girls. I agreed and at the end of those two weeks, even though the kids and I got along fine and had no major issues, the difference between a few hours and two weeks was staggering to me and I recommitted myself to not raising children! 
And then two months later I met your Dad ... 
Kids, you have the best daddy in the world, and as we got to know each other first as friends, then fell in love, and decided to be a family together, I knew that I could get past my fears and other feelings about being a mother if he was the father to my children. But even with the best daddy imaginable by my side, I have often failed to be the mother you deserve. My immature fears and feelings from my teenage years sometimes seep back into my heart and selfishness takes over. Please forgive me. 
Instead of enjoying you as beautiful gifts from the LORD, I sometimes watch the clock until daddy comes home from work. And instead of making each day count, I admit I have been counting down the days until I could send you both to school and there was hope of some "freedom" for me. 
I love you, Leila-girl. I love you, BoBo. I'm so thankful I get to be your mommy. Forgive me for the times I have forgotten how special and fleeting is this time we have together before you're grown up.  Forgive me for the opportunities I have missed in these first years. I know I can't make up the time lost, but please allow me to try. Let this blessing of homeschooling be a fresh start for us.